Year 12 students, Ben and Angus assembly address about the drought.

Posted on August 3, 2018

On Saturday, Joeys and King’s come together to not only enjoy spirited competition between our two great schools, but to raise much needed funds for Rural Aid Australia.

As the largest all boys boarding school in Australia, with our roots embedded in regional NSW, Year 12 Joe Boys Ben Sevil and Angus Carrigan shared their stories about drought and the effects it is having on families in rural and regional areas at a recent Headmasters assembly. 

Over the next two weeks, we will share both of these moving addresses.

Ben Sevil, Year 12
Headmaster’s Assembly
2 August 2018

Good morning Dr Hayes, Brother Anthony, The Brother’s Community, Staff, Parents and boys.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the widespread drought currently affecting the farmers of Australia. My family and I, unfortunately have first-hand experience of how challenging this is at the moment. I come from a farm near Rowena in Northern NSW. We run sheep, cattle and have various farming crops. To run a property, rain is a vital thing and we have had none since February this year. As a result of this, we have been hand feeding all of our stock for about 6 months. Although this is hard and expensive, we are luckier than many others. Many farmers around the Hunter Valley, Central west, and Western NSW in places such as Wallget, have been hand feeding stock for as long as 18 months. Parts of QLD have been in drought for over 3 years and this has lead to devastating outcomes forcing families to sell and leave their property. Properties that they have spent their lives building.

After being in drought for about 9 months we start experiencing many difficulties. These include the death of stock due to the lack of food, a decrease in income and failing crop production due to inadequate and poorly distributed rainfall. We have had to sell a lot of our stock in the early stages of the year to help save the core breeders.

The other thing that people often forget is the effect on the wider rural community. When farmers are struggling, they have no money to spend and therefore, shops start to close in small rural towns and now many streets and shops are just deserted.

Drought brings around many challenges and tests the resilience of all those in rural areas. Because it’s been such a prolonged period now without rain, feed for stock is running low and as a result, the cost of buying feed is increasing a lot. So we find ourselves in the cycle of our stock and crops dying, therefore no income but higher costs to try and survive this. Lower income and higher costs then of course means that many just can’t afford to survive or end up in big debt.

Our properties are not just about business and money. They are important to us and are a part of us. They’ve often been in our families for generations. In my case, I will be a 5thgeneration farmer – four generations on the same property. None of us want to be the one that fails. But right now, my family’s days are spent just looking after stock to make sure they survive rather than improving sustainability and looking towards the future. The days are very repetitive, never knowing when or if this will end. We would hope to be better prepared for drought but that is hard, given the unpredictable environmental factors we face. You just can’t prepare for this.

Farmers always work hard. In fact we all work hard. For every boy in this hall, our parents work hard. The difficult thing at the moment for the farming families is that our parents go to work each day, like all parents, work hard, throw their heart and soul into it … but then at the end of it all – actually lose money not make it.

My family, and farmers in general, are very grateful for the support and help received by our city friends. Awareness is a very important thing so people know how necessary agriculture is to the nation’s economic growth. We are all stronger when we try to understand the industry that supports us. I guess my message to you today is that farming families throughout Australia are suffering at the moment. Many Joeys families fall into this category.

Please support your mates.